New Balance reaches its centennial year this week and celebrates 100 years of brand milestones and continuous achievements as one of the sporting goods industry's leading manufacturers of high performance and active lifestyle products.
“Our mission has never been to be the biggest, but to be the best, and that will not change as we enter our second century of business,” says Jim Davis, Chairman & CEO at New Balance. “We are most proud that the core values New Balance was founded on remain relevant today through our focus on integrity, teamwork and total customer satisfaction.”
From its humble beginnings in 1906 as New Balance Arch, to the 1960's Trackster (the world's first performance running shoe in multiple widths), to the breakthrough award in 1976 from Runner's World for the 320, to its debut of a performance apparel line in 1978, New Balance established and maintained a brand platform of providing superior fit, innovative performance and utilizing domestic manufacturing.
The company grew in the early 1980's through new manufacturing facilities in New England and international distributors, and in 1982 reached the $60 million mark and debuted the well-received 990 running shoe, the first athletic shoe priced at $100. The 990 series has become the most enduring technical running series in the market and the company will offer a special limited edition version of the 992 in May 2006 to highlight the 25th anniversary of the series.
In the 1990's, New Balance developed the New Balance Suspension System and continues to use multiple technologies to meet the needs of performance athletes today. The company's commitment to offering multiple widths in all of their inline shoes has never wavered, and the brand's marketing image of three differently-sized feet is created as a reflection of this philosophy. The company also introduced Cyberpark(TM) USA, the footwear industry's first fully interactive, fully constructed website. In 1998, the 801 trail running shoe captured the attention of younger athletes and sold 1.5 million pairs in one year.
By 2000, New Balance had opened two state-of-the-art distribution centers on each U.S. coast and increased its manufacturing facilities to five within New England. The company's global market share grew from the 10th position in 1991 to the 4th position in 2000 with the achievement of $1 billion in annual worldwide sales. In 2004, New Balance produced 36,000 pairs of shoes per day in the United States alone. The company developed its proprietary cushioning technology Abzorb(R) and continued to use innovations such as 3-D computer modeling to push design limitations.
In the late 1980's, New Balance's “Endorsed by No One” philosophy emerged as it decided to invest its resources in R&D and manufacturing instead of celebrity endorsements. The New Balance Foundation, formed in 1981, continues to fulfill the company's commitment to the communities where its facilities are located and to act as a socially responsible citizen.
In 1991, the company joined forces to eradicate breast cancer with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and remains a national sponsor of their Race for the Cure(R) series today.
For its marketing mix, New Balance has focused on inspirational and thought-provoking advertising campaigns, grassroots athletics and retailer partnerships. The brand has been a proud sponsor of The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon since 1997, where it has seen multiple world and U.S. record-setting races.
Over the years, New Balance has worked to maintain its goal of profitable growth without compromising brand quality or integrity. In 1998 it purchased Dunham, an outdoor performance brand, acquired PF Flyers in 2001 for the active lifestyle market, and created Aravon comfort performance footwear in 2004. Since 2003, it has added nine New Balance licensee partners to help the brand enter and expand in key product arenas. In 2004 the company acquired Warrior Lacrosse, which recently added a hockey division, to help New Balance gain additional expertise in the Team Sports market.
New Balance's first international sales office and first European manufacturing facility both opened in 1978 in Europe. Since then the brand has expanded around the globe from Europe and Asia to the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. With the exception of a few African countries, New Balance is represented in nearly every corner of the world today.
In April, 1972, when Jim Davis bought the company, New Balance employed 6 associates that made 30 pairs of shoes per day. In 2004, New Balance had 2,600 associates worldwide, achieved $1.5 billion in global sales and manufactured more than 35 million pair of athletic shoes.
“As we enter our second century, we will focus on executional excellence in everything we do to achieve our goal of $2 billion in global sales by 2008 and sustainable growth over the long-term,” says Davis. “We will continue to develop and introduce leading-edge technologies and innovative fit enhancements in all of our products.”
“Performance and fit remain the brand's primary product drivers as New Balance moves into and beyond its centennial year,” continues Davis. “At the manufacturing level, executional excellence (or 2E), means we will continue to use our domestic production capabilities to provide lower inventory levels, higher turns and ultimately higher profit margins for our retail partners.”